How far can Malcolm X be seen as the key individual in contribution the civil rights movement?
Malcolm X’s contribution to the civil rights movement arguably make him the key individual, one particular input being “His most far-reaching impact was among the masses of African-Americans in the ghettos of American cities.”. His main priority was to increase black consciousness a concept highly influenced by the idea introduced by Marcus Garvey in the early twentieth century. As Marcus Garvey stated “The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.” With this approach as the foundation to Malcolm X’s ideology he went on to pursue what could be seen as a great contribution to changing social attitudes towards black people and economic power. However other individuals could be seen as having the most contribution towards the civil rights movement such as Martin Luther king who insisted on legal desegregation and organisation of the civil rights movement. These factors could be seen as having a bigger impact than just black consciousness, social impacts and economic power which was what Malcolm x found most important.
Malcolm X introduced a unique and revolutionary approach to the civil rights movement which broke away from mainstream organisations such as the NAACP. He was the representative of the Nation of Islam which had approximately 60-100,000 active members promoting black awareness. He offered an alternative approach which was self sustenance and self defence of black people. Although Malcolm’s approach may be proven to be a success by looking at the legacy left behind he had many direct negative impacts on the civil rights movement. One major flaw in his approach was he alienated white Americans by arguing separatism and didn’t approve of their input; as a result there would be less cooperation from the government, and the outcome being slow progress in gaining legal desegregation. Malcolm also stated that equality and freedom should be attained “by any means necessary” suggesting violence and approval of a potential race war. Furthermore his radical political viewsmay have added racial tension in America.
On the other hand Malcolm could be seen as “catalyst to the cause”. His accomplishments are best understood when analyzing the different periods in his life, prior to his resignation from the Nation of Islam he “did not share the optimism of the civil rights movement and thus found himself speaking to many unsympathetic audiences”. However after his break with Elijah Mohamed he developed more fully his cultural and political Black Nationalist philosophy. He also explicitly preached the importance of black consciousness, social reforms and economic improvement. Furthermore he took the movement to an international audience, not just an American one, he said “Expand the civil-rights struggle to the level of human rights; take it into the United Nations”.Malcolm understood that by globalising the issue he dramatically changed the perception of the civil rights movement “Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth. And any time any one violates your human rights, you can take them to the world court”.In response to being accused of being violent Malcolm replied “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone lays a hand on you, send him to the cemetery”, he often emphasised the importance of self defence. Despite the controversy caused by his ideology, to many he was a “courageous advocate for the human rights of African Americans, a man who portrayed white America in the harshest light for its crimes against black Americans”, which made many revaluate there approach to racism and increase black consciousness.